American Apparel Is Airbrushing Nipples and Pubic Hair off Its Models

March 19, 2015 | Prachi Gupta

American Apparel, the retail company that made waves for debuting pubic hair and nipples on its models and mannequins, seems now to be distancing itself from female anatomy. The company recently started airbrushing the nipples and pubic hair off new product images on its website, ANIMAL has learned.

The changes can be seen on the site’s lingerie page, where each bra or panty marked “new” shows a stark contrast to older clothes: Women are airbrushed to look like plastic dolls rather than real women. It looks as though the company is phasing out the anatomical imagery, as the changes have been creeping in over the past week. Here are two images of the same model, wearing the same lingerie. The image on the left is from Thursday. The image on the right is from the week prior:

The model on the left has been airbrushed

American Apparel has been reinventing itself for months, after the ouster of controversial founder Dov Charney. It was years of advertisements with sexually suggestive poses by models who looked underage, suggestive appearance of Charney alongside said models, and the numerous reports of sexual harassment that orbited around Charney that gave the company its seedy reputation.

New CEO Paula Schneider is trying to distance the brand’s from its “borderline pornographic” aesthetic, as the New York Times described it. In July, she told the Times that she wanted to make keep the brand edgy without being overtly sexual. “This is an edgy brand and it’s always going to be an edgy brand, and it’s about social commentary, it’s about gay rights, and it’s about immigration reform. It’s about the things millennials care about,” she said.

aa_retouched_body_mar19_3Airbrushed model for “new” clothing item

But the fight to uncensor nipples and body hair in media, on the internet and in real life are very much issues that millennials care about. For years, feminists have been arguing for equal rights to be topless with Free the Nipple movement, which has gained the support from the likes of Scout Willis, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. Activist and Free the Nipple documentarian Lina Esco framed the problem when she shared a surprising statistic: “Did you know an American child sees over 200,000 acts of violence and 16,000 murders on TV before they turn 18 and not one nipple?”

The changes to the site were first brought to ANIMAL’s attention by Michelle Lytle, an anti-censorship activist and co-founder of a nipple-print bikini top called the TaTa Top. “American Apparel has taken many stances with their ‘legalize gay’ and ‘legalize LA’ shirts,” said Lytle, who co-founded the female empowerment clothing line with her partner, Robyn. “To see them taking a strong stance on those issues but not on women’s equality is disappointing,” she said.

aa_un-retouched_body_mar19A woman modeling an unmarked lingerie item appears with her nipples intact

“This is a company that is clearly trying to distance themselves from their founder,” she continued. “It’s kind of laughable for them to think that removing nipples from their images of their sheer lingerie is the best way to do this considering their questionable ad choices in recent years. This is a step in the wrong direction and is contributing to the sexualization of a woman’s body at a time where there is a large and growing movement for equality.”

American Apparel did not respond to ANIMAL’s request for comment.